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In an awe-inspiring display of my training acumen and current state of physical prowess, I fell off my pony this weekend. No, “pony” is not a euphemism for either the ungainly youth, or the stunningly athletic rocket launcher I have for big horses. It was the little paint pony.

In my defense, I was riding in my dressage saddle with “slick” jeans (as opposed to my breeches with grippy suede knee patches) and she’s a freakin’ pony that doesn’t have much body to wrap your legs around.

So when we were strolling on home, on a loose rein because she was being a good girl, and then she spooked at a great big nothing that she imagined from thin air that caused her to swoop abruptly sideways, I just flipped off her into the ground like someone had kicked my favorite barstool out from under my favorite butt. Splat.

In the pony’s defense, she was just as surprised as I was to find me picking myself up out of the gravel.

And on the plus side, it wasn’t very far to fall.

In unrelated news, after John and I had returned from a short walk around the property tonight, he started swiping at his waist band on his right side.

“What’s up?” I asked about his odd behavior.

“Bug,” he said.

“Oh, it’s probably not a bug,” I assured him. “It’s probably just a tick.”


“Great. I was under that tree,” he said. Scratch.

“Oh, ticks don’t fall off trees so much as they jump on you from tall grass,” I explained.

“We walked through all that pasture … ,” he said pulling his shirt from his waistband and rooting around for possible sources of a tickle, of a possibly creepy-crawly origin.

Hmmm. Cue the evil laugh in my head here.

Despite a bruise and scrapes, I still got it at pam[at]


Fire and Ice

By Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.


That is one of my favorite poems since my first reading of it in college, and the poem kept coming to me this week because …

This is what happened in our neighborhood March 13:

The view of the fire from our driveway, Mar. 13, 2012.

Yes, a 10,000 to 12,000 acre wildfire that started about two miles west of us, got blown by 30-60 mph winds northeast

The view of the fire from a neighbor's house Mar. 13, 2012. Yes, I was taking a photo and not manning a shovel. Don't judge me.

away from us, then redirected by changing winds back toward us, touching back to Highway 2 just two miles east of us right up close and personal-like with the neighbor’s place, pictured on the right.

The closest it got was about 3/4 of a mile away, directly north from our house — that’s the picture to the left (and the one in the header at the time of this writing).

Then, seven days later on March 19 we got this:

Oh, look. Winter got here just in time for spring! This was a lull in the blizzard Mar. 19, 2012.

Yes, a 30-60 mph blizzard brought 10-12″ of heavy, wet snow. I left work seconds before the power went out (no paper published Monday) and got home before some roads were closed. Phones out, our power out for 12 hours and a ground covering of 3-36″ depending on the drifting.

I didn’t get much for blizzard photos. I didn’t want to stand in the doorway with the door open, letting heat out, and I kept forgetting the camera when I went out to get work done.

No. I swear I did not take this photo while driving on my way to work Mar. 20, 2012. (Or is that supposed to be, "Yes, I swear ... ." Whatever, you know I'm innocent, right?)

But as you can see, the next day was sunny and warm and we have lots of mud now.

In both tragedies, we came out pretty stinking good. Nothing of ours was burned, and 12 hours without power was nothing compared to up to 72 hours like some people had to endure.

Plus, fire danger is now low, so there’s that at pam(at)

NASA is reporting this morning that their dead and floundering satellite has burned up in the atmosphere, its ashes (and chunks) scattered safely in the Pacific. We can all rest assured that we will not be killed by falling debris from this particular space trash. As per my column this week on this topic, I can now untether myself from the ground rod, take off my tin foil skull cap and wait for the lottery winnings to pour in.

For all-is-almost-clear news: I called the call-before-you-dig 811 number to have all the underground utilities marked, and I totally got slammed by customer service rep Andy. I didn’t have the coordinates for my property to pinpoint our place on the map for the crews to find us, so Andy was trying to locate us on Google Earth or some other satellite picture site. Ol’ Andy was rattling off some addresses and landmarks, and I was directing him to go east or west along Hwy 2. Then Andy said (and this is a direct quote, though I can’t adequately convey the guy’s tone in writing): “What do you have on your property? It’s a mess.”

You can’t imagine how mad I get at my parents sometimes for instilling in me the knee-jerk reaction to be polite. Between that trained response and my inherent hypershyness, my throat chokes up on what I want to say in situations like this, and I lamely stutter some innocuous response.

What I said to Andy: “Well, it used to be a salvage yard, but we’re getting it cleaned up.”

What my brain was telling him: “What the fuck, dude? Did you learn that in customer relations class, or are you just naturally that rude? Gimme my damn ticket number, then shut your pie hole.”

The little automated message at the beginning of our phone call said that my call would be recorded. So my fervent hope is that Andy ends up being the bad example in a future customer service exercise. Dork.

Yes, I’m defensive and petty. My property might be messy, but it’s my mess, my white trash estate, my empire, and I will not stand by and let some stranger besmirch it.

I will defend its honor at pam[at]

I know it looks suspicious but, no, I have not been on a traffic massacre of increasing proportions and regularity.

Earlier this summer a semi truck and trailer rolled on its side into the ditch near our approach — no injuries, but the cargo and trailer were a total loss. A few weeks ago there was that motorcycle vs. truck collision a few yards away from my property line, sadly resulting in a loss of life and the motorcycle.

And yesterday there was this train wreck a mile from our place.

Don't let the uniform fool you. I think, maybe, this guy did it.

Two train crewmen on the walking injured list, three engines on their sides in the ditch, at least 16 cars in various states of “off the track” (most of them very off the track) and the tracks mangled for a quarter mile. The very good news is that this wasn’t an AmTrak train. The bad news is that all the lumber that’s scattered on the ground and all the stuff neatly wrapped in white plastic and still on the cars (seen here at both right and left sides of photo) is sitting bulldozed into a ragged heap at the edge of a field. I could just cry at the loss of resources.

Can’t figure out how to rescue the lumber without getting caught.

Because, apparently, that’s mislabeled as “stealing,” whatever, at pam[at]

Roadways are dangerous for animals and people, so I don’t know if our stretch of U.S. Highway 2 is any more dangerous than other roads in the state or the country, or if we just think it is because we see the carnage as we drive each day and reside here less than a quarter-mile from the center line.

Yesterday at 7:30 a.m., a man traveling eastbound on a motorcycle crashed into a road construction water truck that had been pulling a loaded flatbed westbound and had turned left across the motorcyclist’s path. The 61-year-old Wisconsin man died not 350 yards from the point at which my driveway meets the highway.

I did not know the man.

I do not know where he had been or where he was going, why he was traveling alone, what happened in his last moments or hours or days to bring him to that point and time, who loves him and who will miss him, if he had time for his life to flash before is eyes or if he enjoyed the replay if it did.

If he had passed by my north 40 just fifteen minutes later, I might have seen him as I waited to pull out onto the new black top. I probably would have thought no more about the encounter than where and when I would be able to pull into the flow of morning traffic. At most I would’ve noted favorably that he was wearing a helmet, or tssked at his speed, or wondered if he was going to Sturgis for the bike rally.

And that truck driver, then, might have been going about his work day on the Highway 2 construction site. I might’ve seen him on my way to the office or my way back home. Maybe he’s worked this construction project all summer and I’ve waited for him, or cussed him for the dust, or thanked him for the moisture, or followed behind him, or waved at him already. Maybe he had nightmares last night.

A man died, another man’s life changed.

If not for their meeting, that moment, that crash, I would not have given the men a total of two minutes’ thought in all my days. Virtually none of the thousands or tens of thousands of people they would’ve passed by, or met, or followed, or led along the highway that day would’ve had reason to give them any more pause.

Then that man died less than 50 feet from the northwest corner of my property. I didn’t know him.

But I had to write just one of the hundred-something things I’ve wanted to express about his death.

I noticed.


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